Olmert: Kadima MKs must stay unified

Netanyahu: This government has no mandate, new elections needed; Barak: elections by start of '09.

orlev desk 224 (photo credit: Ariel jerozolimski 224)
orlev desk 224
(photo credit: Ariel jerozolimski 224)
Responding to murmurs of a challenge to the current coalition through the possibility of early elections, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert encouraged Kadima MKs on Sunday with a pep talk at the start of Kadima faction meeting. "It is important that we continue to function as a unified faction, that confronts the challenges of parliamentary activities," Olmert said. "The coalition is always struggling, and the opposition is always trying to present a challenge. But I feel that we are capable enough and experienced enough to confront these challenges," Olmert said at a Kadima faction meeting." Hours earlier, one of those challenges was exhibited by Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, during a Likud faction meeting. "The Olmert-Kadima government has no mandate to negotiate the borders of the State of Israel," Netanyahu declared. "This government was chosen from other circumstances, and during a different time. Today most of the public knows that all of the territory which is transferred, or which is promised to be transferred will turn into a base of radical, Islamic terror, under the auspices of Iran." "The government needs to return the mandate to the people, so that they can choose a different government," he said. Late Sunday night, Defense Minister and Labor Chairman Ehud Barak gave his own prediction about the possibility of early elections, saying that they were likely to take place by the end of the year. "I predict that elections will be moved up and held either at the end of this year, or at the beginning of 2009," Barak said during a Labor faction meeting. Other faction leaders said the elections would not be held until after Succot, placing the earliest possible dates in late October or early November. "How long it will be possible for the government to survive - not to actually be proactive, but to survive - is a question open to assessments and guesswork," Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar said. He added, however, that it was "increasingly clear that either in the summer session or the next winter session, we will go to elections." "I hope that for the good of the state, it will be in this session, because it is impossible to maintain a stable government under the current conditions," he said. Sa'ar described the push for elections as the central goal of his party during this session. "If we can actually push the government to elections, that will be enough of an achievement for us during this session," he said. "We plan to act to widen the cracks within the coalition, and will work to shorten the term of this government and to get elections before the end of 2008." NRP chairman Zevulun Orlev expressed optimism that the coalition would lose its footing during the upcoming session. "I'm very, very concerned that there is currently a threat to the democratic nature of the State of Israel," he said. "I really hope that there are coalition parties like Labor that will demonstrate that they are more concerned about Israeli democracy and the public's faith in the government than about furthering their own political careers." Orlev warned that "the topic of elections and instability will lie just under the surface during every hearing about every subject. It simply cannot be that this kind of government can be responsible for life-and-death decisions." If the opposition could successfully pass a law in June to push elections forward, he said, elections could be expected in November.